Tasmanian Devil undergoes world’s first cataract surgery to restore sight

A Tasmanian devil has become the first of its kind in the world to have cataracts transaction to restore his lost sight.
11-month-old Derrick the Devil was born at the Aussie Ark conservation organization and is hand-raised at the Australian Reptile Park near Gosford north of sydney.

It was his carer and head of mammals Hewin Hochkins who first noticed that Derrick was losing his sight.

Derrick the Tasmanian Devil has become the first of his kind to undergo cataract surgery. (The Australian Reptile Park)

Mr. Hochkins began to notice small milky white dots appearing in Derrick’s eyes, which quickly grew.

It became apparent that Derrick could no longer see and the cloudy pupils were soon diagnosed as cataracts by Somersby Animal Hospital vet Dr Robin Crisman.

Cataracts are a debilitating condition that is often found in dogs, but has never been seen before in Tasmanian Devils.

In humans, cataracts are one of the most common causes of blindness, especially in developing countries.

Derrick had lost the ability to see and surgery was the only way vets could restore his sight. (The Australian Reptile Park)

The team at the Eye Clinic for Animals in Sydney have been contacted to see if surgery would be an option for Derrick.

Dr. Kelly Caruso, a surgeon at the Eye Clinic for Animals, performed a number of tests to determine the severity of the cataract and the possibility of surgery.

Derrick’s case was listed as critical and surgery was performed the same day, to give the little devil a chance to see himself again one day.

But there was no guarantee that the procedure would be successful.

Cataract surgery had never been performed on a Tasmanian devil. (The Australian Reptile Park)

“In 10 years of operation, or my decades in the industry, I have never seen a Tasmanian devil undergo cataract surgery,” said Hayley Shute, conservation manager at Aussie Ark.

“It was quite surprising, and of course our only thought is Derrick the Devil and how we can ensure his health and his future.”

In 90% of pets, cataract surgery was successful when performed in both eyes at the same time.

And the procedure is the same as for humans.

The proceedings on Derrick the Tasmanian Devil lasted four hours. (The Australian Reptile Park)

It involves the use of ultrasound energy using a process called phacofragmentation. During Derrick’s operation, the lens was removed and an artificial lens was put back in place.

In total, the operation lasted more than four hours.

Derrick then received round-the-clock care, with his caretakers giving him antibiotics, monitoring the healing process and giving him lots of hugs.

Derrick the Tasmanian Devil with his surrogate father Hewin Hochkins, has made a full recovery. (The Australian Reptile Park)

He has made incredible progress and his veterinary team is confident that the operation to restore Derrick’s sight will be successful.

Derrick is still hand-raised by his surrogate father, but once his vision is restored, the animal is expected to call the Aussie Ark home again.

Australia’s most endangered animals

He must join the successful conservation breeding program, protecting the species from extinction.

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